As a professor, nothing makes a teacher happier than to see your students do well. (Thanks LinkedIn for all those career updates). I have been very fortunate to have numerous standout students over the years, especially during my time at the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University. Former student Brad Childs was the first Stillman School of Business valedictorian during my SHU tenure and I was hoping Stillman would have another.
I am happy to say lightening as struck again as Noel Girgenti was the valedictorian to the Seton Hall class of 2016. I had the pleasure to be one of Noel’s 38 plus professors (Noel was in two of my classes and is now a Stillman MBA Student) during her time at Seton Hall. I was so impressed listening in the audience as Noel touched on themes such as passion – servant leadership – humility – selflessness and most interesting – home – as Seton Hall is part of her community – her home. Well-done Noel…well done…
But don’t take my word for it, as it is best for Noel to speak for herself. Noel, the floor is yours…
Good morning, Archbishop Myers, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the Board of Regents, Provost Robinson, deans, faculty, staff, clergy, family, friends, and our Class of 2016! Today we look back, but tomorrow we move on. We reflect on who we were and look forward to who we will be. We remember our times strolling through campus – vigilantly avoiding contact with the seal so that our famous superstition did not keep us from graduating, seeing the Green filled with our friends on the first beautiful day after a long winter, and rubbing the Pirate’s foot in front of the Rec Center to hopefully receive some good luck before midterms and finals started. Walking through campus now, the very sight of the buildings burst with memories that bond us to Seton Hall. In these places, we cried away our troubles, we laughed until we cried, we converted strangers to lifelong friends, we learned the meaning of adulthood, and we experienced the most impactful moments of our lives here. Above all, we became pirates!
However, this begs the question: what exactly does being a pirate truly mean at this special place? Is it the never-ending pursuit for glory and riches? Or is it the insatiable passion to serve others with humility and selflessness? Seton Hall embodies this passion, thus forever changing our definition of the word because of our community… because of our home.
When we first embarked on our journey 4 years ago, there was insurmountable pressure to know our destiny. None of us knew if we would graduate a better person than the high school versions of ourselves, as it was virtually impossible to predict exactly who would be sitting in these chairs today. Arriving at Pirate Adventure before Freshman year even began, this stimulated our hunger to grow and change even as fear crept up inside. That fear has now transformed. Whenever we travel back to campus after long weekends or breaks, we now mention, without a second thought, that we are going home to the Hall. We say the word home because we became a family comprised of different backgrounds and different places. We all share the same heart, mind, and spirit that no other individual outside of Seton Hall can relate.
Like many of you, with the anticipation of a college and a rigorous curriculum, many questions raced through my mind. What did I actually want to be when I grew up? How could I pick only one discipline to excel in for the rest of my life? Would I need to compromise who I was to make a living? In the humble words of St. Teresa of Avila, “To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.” We mustered up this courage and, with guidance, we capitalized on our strengths and found our passions. Our University cultivated our uniqueness, encouraged us to be well rounded, and taught us values that transcend all professions. These same values are exemplified by our professors, peers, faculty, and staff every day. Through their mentorship, we learned how to transform the concept of valuing the individual and serving others through our leadership into practice.
Our education challenged our way of thinking. Our social experiences allowed us to show compassion and sacrifice for others who we just met (although, sometimes those relationships were the ones that grew most in our hearts). Our community informed us how to remain hopeful and faithful to our aspirations and beliefs, while remaining steadfast in our ethics and morals. Whether we are graduating from the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Communication and the Arts, School of Diplomacy and International Relations, College of Education and Human Services, College of Nursing, Stillman School of Business, School of Health and Medical Sciences, or the Seminary School of Theology, our coming of age here allowed us to realize that the “real world” is a place filled with opportunity for kindness and greatness and not as a dreaded dead-end once 9-to-5 becomes a reality.
So, I’m assuming that we’re all here today because we didn’t walk across the seal, right? Well, now we can walk across with confidence and recognize that we earned the right to call ourselves pirates. Every time you notice a Seton Hall sweatshirt or a bumper sticker or our men’s and women’s basketball teams on TV, you know that your community spans far greater than these gates and far greater than the state of New Jersey. You are a part of Seton Hall, where you learned how to flourish and embrace who you are today. And that person is exactly who you were meant to be, a person who yearns for and who will inevitably achieve greatness.
By the end of the day, we become full-time representatives of this University. We are Seton Hall. We are a product of these 4 years and all the lives that have touched us. We carry a part of this institution with us forever. Let us always remember what being a pirate truly means.
Congratulations to our Class of 2016!
Seton Hall University Class of 2016